Case study | Creating safe spaces for communities - Museums Association

Case study | Creating safe spaces for communities

The Museum of Homelessness shares how it has invested in relationships with its community
The Museum of Homelessness is run by people with lived experience of homelessness

The Museum of Homelessness, which will open its first permanent site next year in north London, is run by people with direct experience of homelessness. As a venue that provides vital services and a safe space for people in need, working hand in hand with the community is vital.

Co-founder Matt Turtle says the museum’s opening has been scheduled to give the organisation time to carefully build relationships with the community. It has also prioritised a slow rollout of activity, rather than a ribbon-cutting moment.

“How we look after ourselves and others is very much in our minds,” he says. “It is important that the museum feels like a space where people can come and feel connected, feel understood and, most importantly, feel safe.

"We’re dealing with an intersectional community and homelessness touches people’s lives in varied ways. We want the museum to be a site of recovery and healing.”

As a small, agile organisation, the museum is prepared to advocate for issues surrounding homelessness.

It will also implement initiatives such as grassroots alternative health provision, training programmes in trauma-informed coaching, and producing toolkits that can help cultural organisations provide better access for people affected by homelessness.

This includes creating a welcoming environment, signposting key services and resources as “warm havens”, and operating ethical collecting policies that tell the stories of lives touched by homelessness.

“Arts organisations and museums are looking at how they can restructure what they do,” says Turtle. “Audiences, particularly young people, have more socially focused interests, and there is so much need out there. At a time when museums are constantly competing for resources, the question of how we can deliver what people need can only continue.”

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